Rebrand Ghana’s Creative Economy

Alexander Ayertey Odonkor


The creative arts sector in any economy has the capacity to propel economic growth if the policies that are germane to the industry are implemented.

This year, the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts released a report that shows that the Arts industry contributes 4.2 % of the gross domestic product; representing $763.3 billion. The Arts industry has contributed more to GDP than agriculture, warehousing and transportation; employing 4.9 million people who earn $370 billion. In the United Kingdom, the creative industry grew at twice the rate of the economy; contributing more than £85 billion in 2015, representing 5% of the UK economy’s gross value added at that time as published by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport.

In 2010, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that cultural activities contributed to 1.53% of Ghana’s GDP. Central cultural activities generated 40.5% while equipment or supporting cultural activities contributed 59.5%. This report only took into account private and formal cultural activities, excluding the indirect and induced impact of the sector.

The informal sector is estimated to account for more than two-thirds of the Ghanaian economy, making it erroneous to calculate the impact of the creative industry in the informal sector. There is little or no data for the contribution of music publishing, historical sites, television programme and broadcasting activities among many others. In truth, the contribution of the creative economy to the gross domestic product in Ghana is indubitably higher than reflected by the economic indicators.

Some countries have shown a strong commitment to the development of their creative sector and their investments have yielded great results. A classic example in West-Africa is the creative sector of Nigeria, which will be contributing more than $1 billion to GDP by 2020.

In a plan to discourage the country’s over dependence on its oil earnings, the government has implemented policies that will boost investments in the creative sector. In 2016, the creative sector contributed N239 billion, representing 2.3% of GDP. During the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Netflix; the global streaming service announced the acquisition of the distribution rights of Lionheart, a Nollywood movie that was directed by Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji. In 2019, ‘‘Chief Daddy’’ a movie that became the most popular theatrical release of 2018, had its global distribution rights sold for an undisclosed fee to Netflix. Today the movie is available to 149 million customers in 190 countries, making this medium the best way for Africans to reach the global audience with the African culture.

The success story of Nollywood is not different from the impeccable level achieved by Nigerian music. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) sales revenue accumulated by Nigerian music was estimated at $56 million in 2014. The international accounting and auditing firm projected that sales revenue of Nigerian music will reach $88 million in 2019. At the 2017 Music of Black Origin (MOBO) awards that was held in London, Wizkid, a notable Nigerian music artiste won the Best International Act category beating well established internationally recognised performers like Jay-Z, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and DJ Khalid.

The impact of Nigerian music seems to have multiple facets as Davido, another Nigerian music artiste is currently the only music artiste in Africa with a music video with over 100 million views on YouTube.

In the first quarter of 2019, Davido held a music concert in London’s O2 arena; the 20,000 capacity arena was sold out. As the creative economy of Nigeria soars higher, it is not surprising that Nigeria was the only West-African country in the top ten list of World Tourism rankings in Africa in 2016 and 2017. The World Tourism ranking is compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); the ranking is based on the number of international visitors received in a country and the revenue generated by inbound tourism.

Some have argued that Nigeria’s success in the creative sector can largely be attributed to the fact that the West-African country is the largest consumer market in Africa. Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI), the business and economics research arm of Mckinsey has projected that Nigeria will continue to be the single largest consumer market in Africa, controlling 15% of the overall growth in consumer spending by 2025.

If this argument is anything to go by, then it defies logic for Jamaica; with a population of 2.89 million and a GDP of 14.77 billion in 2017 according to the World Bank, to have a tourism industry that earns over 50% of Jamaica’s total foreign exchange earnings. The creative economy of Jamaica contributes more than 5% to the country’s GDP; this is more than what the mining industry contributes to GDP.

When Ghana hosted the first World Tourism Forum in Africa, the Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, announced the government’s target to increase the contribution of tourism to GDP by 2027. As seen in most developed economies, the tourism industry mostly thrives on the success of either the film industry or the music industry or even both. In recent times both the film industry and the music industry has not performed well. The Ghana film industry came into existence when the Gold Coast Film Unit was set up at the Information Services Department in 1948. Even at the budding level, the film industry was thriving as some of the movies received international recognition.

In 1970, a movie that was directed by Egbert Adjesu, ‘‘I Told You So’’ became the first Ghanaian movie to be successful on the international scene; receiving splendid reviews from the New York Times among others. This paved way for the Ghanaian film industry to collaborate with other film industries in developed economies. In 1973, The African Deal, ‘‘Contratto Carnale’’ a collaboration between a Ghanaian and an Italian film production was also released.

The creative sector saw a couple of collaborations between Ghanaian and German film production houses. Notable among them were, ‘‘Kukurantumi-Road to Accra’’ which was directed by King Apaw. ‘‘Cobra Verde’’ a movie that was directed by Werner Herzog also received many international awards. The creative sector in the last few decades has witnessed a lot of collaborations between Ghanaian and Nigerian film industry. With the latter being considered as the second largest movie industry in the world, surpassing Hollywood and placing second to Bollywood as reported by Fortune in 2015. This is a great achievement for an industry that came into existence in 1992, after ‘‘living in bondage’’ a movie that was shot by Kenneth Nnebue with a budget of $12,000 sold over a million copies.

The film industry of Ghana has become a pale shadow of its beginning that showed so much promise. The story is quite the same with the music industry of Ghana which has never been short of exceptional talents. Many renowned musical talents in Africa have used Ghana’s rich musical pool of talents as a spring board to jump to higher heights. The late Fela Kuti of Nigeria is considered a pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre but it was until he came to Ghana in 1967 for a new music direction that he named his genre of music the Afrobeat.

The performance of both industries is on a downward trend as the film and the music industry is not able to compete favourably with the influx of foreign content on the Ghanaian market as a result of globalization. Successive Ghanaian governments have paid lip service as the performance of the creative economy deteriorates. Concerted efforts and investment by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Arts and other stakeholders can help Ghana generate substantial revenue from the creative arts industry.

Emmanuel Amoah-Darkwah Ch.E
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